January 2016 News

No Harm To Pak Stance On Kashmir If GB Made 5th Province: Jurists

13 January 2016
The Nation
Sajid Zia

Islamabad: There will be no harm to Pakistan's stance on Kashmir if Gilgit-Baltistan is upgraded as the fifth province of the country, as being considered by the government, say senior jurists of the country. However, senior Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik has written a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif advising him against such a step as it would amount to bartering the rights of the Kashmiri people. The provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan is not likely to entail any negative implications; rather it will go in favour of the people of the region who are still looking for legal footing for their identification, said jurists expressing their views on the move initiated by the government to make GB as another federating unit of the country. The GB chief minister told media persons that a committee had been constituted on the direction of the prime minister to work out feasibility of converging GB into the fifth province of Pakistan. Former spokesman and GB minister Amir Kazmi also endorsed the CM's statement while speaking to this scribe on phone. The GB with 12 districts, spreading over 72,494sqkm and a population of over two million, has a highly important location for bordering Pakistan at Khyber PK with China, India and Afghanistan and with Russia at the Wakhan corridor. Of late the Indian authorities felt that GB's conversion into a province aims at addressing the concerns of China which is investing $46billion to build 2,700-km-long economic corridor from Kashgar to the port city of Pakistan, Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea through that part. Believing GB a disputed part, India is afraid of the large-scale presence of China in the area and reinforcement to Pakistan if it is adopted as a province. The GB authorities have dismissed all these apprehensions. Legal experts do not see any harm in Pakistan's set policy on Kashmir. 'Pakistan can absorb GB through a constitutional amendment to give rights to the people of that part, who hitherto are looking for their identity,' said former Lahore High Court Chief Justice Mian Allah Nawaz, while totally dispelling the impression that the step would weaken Pakistan's stand on the Kashmir issue. He said GB can be made a province also on the condition that it will act accordingly on this part after whatever decision is taken on the whole of Kashmir. This may sound a provisional solution, but would ensure fundamental rights to the GB people. 'The decision will not cause any loss to Pakistan, but benefit it by way of comforting people of that part and enabling them to appoint their own judges, bureaucracy etc,' said the former CJ. He said: 'Making GB a province is a matter of our internal sovereignty that will not vitiate claim of Pakistan on Held Kashmir. ' Mian Allah Nawaz said India has also given special status to Held Kashmir in its constitution, which means it is not an integral part of it. However, he said, GB, as a province, must be backed by the idea of giving their people economic benefits. Former Supreme Court Bar Association President Abid Hassan Manto said it is a strong will of the people of GB that they should be given a definite legal status instead of being governed through variety of laws. 'No reason to oppose GB as a province when Pakistan is already using that land at choice,' the senior jurist said while strongly supporting the move. 'The people of GB cannot get their rights without bringing them under the umbrella of the Constitution,' he said, dismissing the idea that Kashmir and GB were part of the same issue. 'He said only a constitutional amendment with2-3 of majority is needed for creating the fifth province. He added pursuing this move will be towards rectification and not complication of problems. Former judge Tariq Mahmood opined that the move may have political repercussions more than legal ones. Favouring its proposed status, however, he said, the saying 'might is right' may tilt the balance in favour of India for it is economically much stronger than Pakistan and commands a position in the world. 'By virtue of this difference, India can take advantage to weaken Pakistan's position on Kashmir,' he added. 'Azad Jammu and Kashmir and GB can be given constitutional cover as separate special territories as an interim arrangement until final decision on Kashmir dispute, said former acting AJK SC chief justice, Syed Manzoor Hussain Gilani, while sharing views with a newspaper. He sought the same rights for these territories as have other provinces of Pakistan. This status of both will keep the UN resolutions alive, he added. Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik has warned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over the country's reported proposal to make Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth province, saying battering away territory for economic growth isn't statesmanship. In a letter addressed to the prime minister, the JKLF chairman asked him to desist from any such move. 'Your Government is holding a meeting where the future of Gilgit-Baltistan is going to be deliberated upon. Apprehensions have been raised in various quarters that your government may reach a consensus to merge Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan. This will have implications on the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir,' Malik wrote in the letter. The JKLF chairman said the Kashmir is not about territory but about rights of people. 'Bartering these rights for land means killing the aspirations of people,' he said. Malik also expressed concern over the reports of changing constitutional status of the Gilgit-Baltistan and said Pakistan has no moral authority to adopt any such policy which could adversely affect the future of Kashmiris. 'Media has reported that China Pakistan corridor is making you change the constitutional status of Gilgit Baltistan. Economic development is good but you have no moral right to make policy that will adversely affect the future of millions of Kashmiris,' Malik wrote. The JKLF chairman said: 'I appeal you to think of the legacy you will leave if you become party to depriving people of their historical, political and moral rights for which they have given their lives. Bartering away territory for economic growth does not make you statesman. It is opportunity for you to become a statesman by not bowing to economic pressures. Become a statesman and resist short term temptations.'